Eighteen year old Leanne Linbas it about to graduate from El Toro High School. She plans to attend Saddleback College with a focus on Special Education.
Her mother, Ruth, describes her daughter as adventurous, saying she is always looking for something new, exciting, and different. She competes in her school’s track team, loves listening to music, and hangs out with friends at the local mall; typical teenage stuff. But her journey wasn’t always so pleasant.
As a toddler, Ruth recalls, her daughter wasn’t talking and would bang her head against the wall. Leanne remembers being terrified of people and always ran away from strangers. In school, it was difficult to talk to teachers and make friends with other kids. She remembers the girl being so scared to socialize that she would just shut down.
At age 4, Leanne was diagnosed with a mild form of autism. Initially her mother tried to get special counseling and education for Leanne. Unfortunately the insurance wouldn’t cover the costs and her family wasn’t able to afford the healthcare costs out of pocket. So from 5th grade on, Leanne was mainstreamed in regular classes.
Years later she discovered her diagnosis after reading an old school file. As soon as she saw the words she began cry and had to read it over and over again. It was very hard for her to accept in the beginning. Her anxiety grew worse as she struggled to fit in with other students.
Soon, Leanne realized something needed to be done and was transferred to counseling. It was then that she learned her disability wasn’t something she needed to get rid of. She began to view her autism as a blessing- something to be proud of.
Leanne is now an advocate for others. In a 5 day Youth Leadership Forum, she represented her school by providing information and resources for students with different disabilities. She also started the El Toro Disability Coalition which teaches kids the history of disability rights.
So how does she feel about being left in the dark all those years? Leanne appreciates her experience because it made her into the person she is today. She hopes that by telling her story people will also feel her sense of pride and acceptance for those with autism.
To read the full article please visit http://www.ocregister.com/articles/libas-668769-school-autism.html
By Raiza Belarmino